Tavis Smiley’s ninth annual “State of the Black Union” get-together last month in New Orleans was another commercial success. Sponsored by several national brands, Smiley had the Morial Center packed with black folks televised live on C-Span for the all-day Saturday event, and it was re-broadcast the same night, in its entirety.
Logos of various national brands were prominent throughout, even on C-Span, as they were interwoven in the designed backdrop of the stage, complete with state-of-the-art lighting.
And, of course, Smiley had his main man, Tom Joyner, involved. “The Tom Joyner Morning Show” has over 8 million mostly black listeners and Tavis Smiley does a commentary on the show every Tuesday and Thursday.
Leading up to his New Orleans event, Smiley invited all presidential candidates to participate. Apparent-ly, refusals were expected, but Smiley let the Tom Joyner audience know that he was in a snit over a perceived snub by Sen. Barack Obama.
Smiley rehashed the fact that last year instead of attending Smiley’s affair, Obama launched his presidential campaign in Lincolnesque fashion, in Springfield, Ill.
In Smiley’s mind, what better place for a black candidate for president of the United States of America to launch his campaign than at his “State of the Black Union” so-called summit? (Had Obama done such an impolitic thing, his fund raising and voter appeal would have been on a par with Al Sharpton’s futile campaign of 2004.)
Hillary Clinton saw an opening as Smiley covertly lambasted Obama during successive radio commentaries. Hillary had Smiley report that she would “participate” in his New Orleans event. And here’s how Tavis Smiley got used by Clintonism. Hillary was allowed the podium and stage by herself – following the end of the last panel discussion – to make a political speech, no less.
Smiley then joined Hillary on stage, both seated with microphones, and he proceeded to “interview her.” Nothing was memorable from what seemed an inane attempt to provide a
Hillary response to agreed-upon questions. And to this very day, that scene and his position on Obama continues to cause Tavis Smiley what could be severe credibility problems, especially among Americans of African descent.
After basically schmoozing Smiley’s black audience, Hillary again attacked Obama hours later from another state.
Tavis Smiley could get caught out there trying to do a crossover from journalist to black leader. Like a lot of black leaders in the Clintons’ camp who believe that Obama went out of turn, hadn’t paid his civil rights and national Democratic Party dues and “ain’t black enough,” Smiley could be smarting that Obama’s not joining with him diminishes his thrust, particularly as Obama’s popularity soars.
After all, Smiley has been building for several years – he has done the summit thing for nine years, each year in a different section of the country. As an entrepreneur, he has developed The Smiley Group, Inc., and he has books on the market, a TV show, is on radio across the country, and is booked solid on the speakers’ circuit.
No matter Tavis Smiley’s feint or real desire to be a national black leader, one thing is crystal clear: Irrespective of what happens between now and the November election for president, Barack Obama is and will be, The Man!
Tom Joyner makes it clear at every opportunity that Obama is the chosen one and he, like Oprah Winfrey and millions of other Americans of all colors and backgrounds, supports him 100 percent.
Whatever area Tavis Smiley may want to lead, first he had best get in line and follow his people.